craft ecomony

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What would you rather have, one really good cup of strong, aromatic, nose curling coffee or 3 cups of watered down convenience store swill? How about one beer with a lovely malt taste, not over-hopped, and a rich, clean aftertaste or 3 PBRs. Last one, a plate of pasta with fresh backyard tomatoes, skinned and deseeded, a nice touch garlic and basil, sprinkled with Locatelli or a jar of Ragu?

If you favor the former, you are an appreciator of the craft economy. Where less is more, flavor is key and, sadly, the cost may be greater. It is mass production versus batch made. I’ve written this week about the craft economy and how it’s trickling into packaged goods. And how consumers are taking on more responsibility for preparation and doing it themselves. The craft economy allows us to remove unhealthy practices, preservatives and ingredients. It allows us to take more pride in our role in health and sustainability. In the craft economy we reuse more. We create more from scratch. It takes time. And as a result we may watch less TV, be less sedentary — and learn as we develop craftsmanship. Always be learning.

The craft economy helps us appreciate each other more, ourselves more and the planet more. It’s here to stay – and for all the right reasons.



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Gentrification is often seen as a bad word. It’s happening in Brooklyn, Oakland, Brixton and well beyond. Frankly, gentrification is a sign of economic progress. It’s also a demographic phenomenon; a changing of the boomer guard. The Brooklyn surrounding the Barclay Center is very different than it was 10 years ago. The Norwegian enclave in Bay Ridge is no longer what it was decades ago. We are an economically driven, upwardly mobile society when the economy allows. And with so many stories of gentrification, it seems the economies are on the mend.

I talk a lot about the craft economy – an economy where “junk” products and services shipped here in containers from China are less welcome. Where it is better to buy something for more money that won’t go into a landfill in 18 months. Where tradesman and craftswomen are more interesting to talk to than investment bankers. Where lettuce grown on your own property tastes better than something wrapped by Dole in plastic bag.

The craft economy is about taking pride in your planetary contribution. Dialing down pesticides and PVCs. Living a healthier life so you needn’t pump the body up with pharmaceuticals. It’s about fixing up neighborhoods. And reaching out to all kinds of people, to learn the crafts of yesteryear and create the crafts of tomorrow. Marketers are learning from the craft economy. Go forth and prosper.


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A little bit of a 4-trick pony when I land on a market insight, I ride it and ride it and milk it in What’s the Idea? Todays trick is The Craft Economy.  Words are important, brand planner agree, and the word “craft,” according to Jeremiah Owyang, may not do my craft economy business meme justice. Jeremiah feels it may suggest more “arts and crafts” than I intend. Michaels Stores kind of things.  The reality is, the word was borrowed more from craft beer than the ribbon and button set.

To me the craft economy is about craftsmanship. It’s about building things that last. Physical things that can be passed down through generations – not thrown into the landfill.  Things we repair. In my current Henning Mankel book, a character suggested civilization took a turn for the worse when we stopped darning our or socks.

As technological advances create more leisure time for Americans and Europeans we need to find more life-positive things to do with our hands and minds.  The TV, eating, drinking are not the best of pastimes.  By focusing on save-the-planet activities we will save ourselves.  That’s the craft economy. And maybe there is some art in that.



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The composting plates being tested in schools cost about $.15 a piece to make. Seven times that of the $.02 plastic plate. These composting plates, made of sugar cane, require more time to manufacture and are more complicated than their stamped out plastic cousins. It’s the future, before our eyes. What savings might accrue to a sugar cane plate vs. plastic? In most cases both will still have to be carted, but putting nutrients back into the soil will produce saving.

What is the cost of moving from antibiotic-laced chickens in our diets to organic chickens? Cents a pound? Dollars a pound? Sure.  But the back end savings of that move? Rather than having to undergo 3 different, escalated courses of drugs to knock out bronchitis, perhaps only one? Do the math.

And lastly, if a country like Mexico taxes sugar laden soda and fast food, will it begin to lose its mantle of the world’s obesity king? And will healthcare costs in Mexico reduce by billions? You know the answer.

This is not stuff of the craft economy, though craft economy acolytes are certainly supporters of a more sustainable bio-planetary model, these are simply healthy choices which at face-value don’t make economic sense. We are moving in this direction in America, slowly.  This is our awakening. Marketers who pursue this new direction – companies like Hains Celestial – will slowly win this war.  A war on waste. An economic war. Peace.      

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I had never heard of a Breguet watch until thumbing through a lovely glossy magazine published by the brand earlier this year. The booklet paid homage to the Swiss roots of the company, its longevity and amazing craftsmanship – Breguet created the world’s first wristwatch and opened for business before the U.S. declared independence. Inside and out, these timepieces are unlike any others in the world. Rolexes are elegant in their simplicity, Breguet timepieces are elegant in their overt beauty and celebration of complexity.

As the craft economy grows, so will grow the market share of companies like Beguet because they embody the movement (excuse the pun.)  The craft economy, signaled by craft beers, Etsy, workworking channels, etc., has also spawned the latest trend, the maker society.  The word “maker” is the latest pop marketing term and started with the very cool Makerbot. Maketbot is a 3D prototyping printer and was shown in a recent 60 Minutes piece creating a working hand prosthesis for a child…for a few hundred dollars. (The 3D printer is really a robot. The making of robots is cool; mass producing robots – not really craft economy stuff.)

Back to Brequet. When a person holds a “thing” in their hand made by another person and is astonished by the craftsmanship, it is an affirmation of humanness. (I encountered this feeling when as a volunteer archeologist in Maine I found a deer rib bone in the shape of a weaving shuttle, ornamented by human hand. Blown away.) Mass produced products do not astonish. Frankly they lack brand panache and brand story.

The craft economy does not delight customers, its goal is to astonish.   Peace.  

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One current marketing trend in America, partially caused by the recession, is the craft economy.  People learning to cook at home, fix their broken stuff, use better quality, better value products – a la craft beer. But beyond the recession, as America’s leisure time has become a bit more focused on technology (TV, video games, social networking) I see some blow back from those who want more…and they are turning to the craft economy. Both as buyers and sellers. 

This morning I drove past a McDonagh’s Milk delivery truck and realized this small local dairy is schlepping milk around in glass quart bottles.  It made me want to drink fresh milk. There were no ads on the very spare truck, yet I felt something and did something (like write about it.)  If the craft economy can by its very nature drive demand, it needn’t rely on advertising – and that is why I know the craft economy is for real. Our town just started a local farmer’s market, and it’s filled with craft economy buyers and sellers. Communing about craft.

So where do people go on the web to find craft people and products? And who will curate that web content?  Who will determine what is craft and what is mass-produced, junk economy material?  I suspect some entrepreneur will latch on and use Yelp-like rating to do it.  But that’s not particularly crafty.  Let’s see who wins. Because it’s coming. Peace!

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